The new year is here, and 2013 brings a host of questions for the industry. How is the industry dealing with the aging of the advisor industry? What more can firms do to attract women and minorities? What will the business and regulatory landscape look like?
To answer some of these questionsor least look them in the eyewe've examined 10 people likely to make an impact on the industry this year: our power players.
As more boomer advisors head into the retirement sunset, everyone agrees the question is how to bring in the next generation. For some, like Michael Schroeder at Baird, the answer is to catch them earlier, in college and business schools, where often the flashier careers like investment banking get all the attention. Others, like Raymond James executive Chet Helck, head of the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association, say the industry needs to provide much better training. He notes that the industry group has an impressive continuing education program for rising professionals, but admits it has not yet tackled education at the younger end of the spectrum.
All agree the industry must make inroads with women and minorities, both as new practitioners and clients. Helck has had his own frustrating experience here, noting his firm's inability to develop Hispanic advisorsdespite the company's Florida headquarters. He suggests a lack of tradition as one explanation for the industry's lack of traction with these groups. He remembers his days as an advisor, and recalls female clients who did not want a female advisor because they disapproved of women working. "Women didn't typically follow their mothers into a career in those days," Helck says. Of course, that generational problem is fading, but many of today's minorities are in a similar boat with respect to the financial services industry. "We've got to create momentum and get a pathway that others would follow," Helck says.
Regulatory concerns also loom on the horizon this year as Elisse Walter takes the helm of the Securities and Exchange Commission, Elizabeth Warren assumes a new role as U.S. Senator and industry groups like the Public Investors Arbitration Bar Association and SIFMA also see new leadership. The mission of all of these figures: to hold the industry to higher standards of accountability.
For those leaders, that means emphasizing risk management and transparency as regulators put forth new rules for the industry. For some, it also means making advisors more accountable when they are taken to task in arbitration.
Here is our look at 10 people (in alphabetical order) poised to craft new industry traditions and paths for the next generation of financial advisors.
1. Chet Helck
Incoming chair of SIFMA; Raymond James
When taking the reins at the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association last fall, Chet Helck, Raymond James executive vice president and chief executive of the firm's Global Private Client Group, did an exhaustive self-assessment of the group's leadership. He asked board members, former board members and committee chairs to identify the major issue facing the industry. Their answer was unanimous. "We believe earning the public's trust and confidence is job number one," Helck says.
Trust must be restored not only in Wall Street firms and advisors, Helck says, but also in the regulatory structure, the governmental process, economy and markets. "Everything that goes to having people believe there's a brighter day ahead and they can invest with confidence, knowing the outcomes will be predicted by the performance of companies, theories, strategies, and things will work as they are supposed to work."
Helck has three prescriptions: thoughtful risk management, transparency and responsible regulation. These form the framework of his agenda at SIFMA for 2013.
Risk can't be avoided, Helck notes, but can be balanced and managed so it does not cause disproportionate damage. What then remains for the industry is figuring out "where the pain points and remedies are" in the regulatory structure. This was the intent of the Dodd-Frank law, he says, and all the studies and hearings that preceded it. "It was well intended, but not completely successful as measured by the public's trust and confidence," Helck says.
The industry must also figure out a way to let clients know in a clear, straightforward manner about costs and risks. The challenge is operational, Helck says, as the reams of required disclosures has not led to clarity.
That leads to responsible regulation. Most of the laws governing the industry were passed in the aftermath of the stock market crash of 1929. They worked well for 75 years, Helck says, but are outdated. And the necessary modernization has been accelerated by a series of financial crises. That means it is vulnerable to decisions made from panic. "It's not just damage control to keep us from another mortgage meltdown. It's creating a framework to work with more expansive investment choices, rapidly changing technology," Helck explains. "We're just playing at a higher level today."
2. Scott C. Ilgenfritz
Incoming president of the Public Investors Arbitration Bar Association (PIABA)
Scott C. Ilgenfritz has several issues on his radar screen as the incoming president of the Public Investors Arbitration Bar Association (PIABA). The Tampa-based partner at Johnson, Pope, Bokor, Ruppel & Burns, LLP, is casting an especially critical eye on expungements, the legal term for when brokers are allowed to clean their records after arbitration cases.
He suspects both requests for expungement and expungements have increased significantly since May 2009, when the rules on reporting investor complaints were changed. They were changed to require brokerage firms to file reports of alleged broker misconduct, even if their broker was not named as a party in an investors arbitration claim. (Investors attorneys often name only the firm, even if they are complaining about misconduct by the rep.)
An increased in expungements can erode investor protection. Thats a real issue as far as the public investor is concerned, Ilgenfritz says, because it affects the integrity of the public record as far as individual brokers.
Ilgenfritz plans to ask PIABA's arbitration committee to undertake a study of awards before and after the rule change to see if expungements have increased. "The panel might enter an award of $50,000, $150,000, and nevertheless grant an expungement request by the broker, which doesn't make a lot of sense to me," Ilgenfritz says. "If the panel is rendering an award in favor of the claimant, it's logical to conclude the broker did something wrong."
Often brokers' attorneys will negotiate for expungement in settling claims with investors. For instance, before reimbursing the investor for lost money, the attorney could require that the investor agree to an expungement. "This is problematic on a lot of levels," he says.
In some circumstances, expungement might be appropriate, but there are strict requirements. "I plan to discuss with FINRA those requirements and see that arbitration panels are following the FINRA rule," he says.
Ilgenfritz also plans to focus on recruiting more arbitrators to increase the diversity of the pool of adjudicators. He will also push for investor education. "I seriously doubt that most mom and pop investors know of their ability to sue their stock brokers or his firm for negligence in recommending unsuitable investments," he says.
3. Richard Ketchum
Head of FINRA
Richard Ketchum, the chairman and chief executive of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), has a long-time goal: to take over regulation of all financial advisors. Because of the opacity surrounding the leadership of the Securities and Exchange Commission and Congress's long to-do list, it's become a popular parlor game to speculate whether his dream may become reality this year.
FINRA, the industry-funded regulator of broker dealers, has been pushing to assume oversight of the 11,000 registered independent advisors (RIAs) from an underfunded and overburdened SEC. But RIAs, who are lightly regulated now, do not welcome a change. After laying low for much of last year, FINRA officials stepped up the sales pitch at an industry conference in November. One point in the group's favor: because the SEC is spread so thin, RIAs get examined once every 13 years, and almost 40% of RIAs have never been examined. Everyone agrees the regulatory playing field must be leveled. Still, that does not automatically mean that FINRA will be the self-regulated agency (SRO) to take over.
Many RIAs have objected to being regulated by the same organization that oversees brokers. They argue FINRA can't fully appreciate the way RIAs work because they are held to a higher fiduciary standard than brokers, that of acting in their clients' best interests. Meanwhile, brokers need only meet a suitability requirement, selecting investment products based on clients' age and risk tolerance.
However, the Financial Services Institute, the trade group for RIAs, reluctantly threw its support behind FINRA in May. "There is no escaping the fact that this is a classic "the devil you know versus the devil you don't" situation," Joseph Russo, chair of the FSI Board of Directors, wrote in a letter to his members.
In the short term, it's not apparent how FINRA would take over, however.
A bill to remove regulatory duties of RIAs from the SEC and give it to a self-regulatory organization (SRO) has been languishing in Congress since it was introduced in April. Another bill that proposed funding the SEC's examinations by collecting "user fees" from the advisors has suffered a similar fate. Neither got a lot of attention amidst election season and the wrangling over the fiscal cliff. Media reports suggested that the long-standing issue would continue to linger this year, as Congress deals with the thorny issue of reining in the deficit. Plus, new SEC Commissioner Elisse Walter must finish two jobs mandated by Congressdrafting new rules mandated by Dodd-Frank and the JOBS Actbefore turning her attention to anything else.
4. Nancy Kistner
Head of CFP Board
Nancy Kistner, the new chair of the Board of Directors of the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, has a lot to get done this year. She and her colleagues on the board have identified four "outcomes" to boost the organization's profile in the next several years. That includes not only reaching for household name status, but also an overriding aim of helping the public. "We have a long way to go on that front," she says.
That starts with promoting awareness. Raising awareness of the CFP certification among the public, the financial services industry and policy makers "is critical to the future of the CFP designation and to the profession," she says. The board is starting with a public awareness campaign, featuring targeted advertising in magazines, television and radio. Then there's "CFP ambassadors" speaking to local media outlets on issues affecting investors, such as retirement.
Growth is the next piece, expanding the profession from the 130,000 CFPs in 27 countries worldwide65,000 of whom are in the U.S. That means working with large firms already encouraging their advisors to get the CFP designation, as well as small firms just learning about it.
Boosting recognition also means getting law- and policy-makers on Capital Hill acquainted with what CFPs do. The message is that no matter which governmental body oversees an advisor, the CFP Board also regulates those who hold the designation by enforcing ethics and education requirements. Further, the group will continue to push for a uniform fiduciary standard for all. "We feel the fiduciary standard will restore and strengthen trust in financial advisors, and will therefore have long-term benefits for consumers as well as the economy," she says.
The last piece is authority. Kistner and the board want to create something like a think tank. Still in the very early planning stages, the idea is to bring researchers and academics together with passionate practitioners. "We want to be a thought leader around issues consumers are dealing with, that we feel we can authoritatively research and write on for the benefit of the public," Kistner says.
5. David Kowach
New president of Wells Fargo Private Client Group
For David Kowach, the new president of Wells Fargo Advisors' Private Client Group, 2013 will be about helping the firm's financial advisors develop deeper client relationships with their clients. His goal is for Wells to be known as the firm with the strongest client relationships. "When I was growing up in the business, the advisor with the most accounts 'won,'" he recalls. "That's not what the industry will look like going forward."
Kowach believes that clients want these deeper, stronger relationships as well. But he recognizes that having a large book of business can make it hard for an advisor simply to keep up with the complex issues in clients' lives. Then there's the matter of updating their financial plans, monitoring their progress and adjusting their portfolios to reflect life changes. "It's an ongoing interaction with clients every day," he says.
So what's the path to these almost familial relationships? A bear-hug of the firm's best practices. The firm's research shows that clients whose advisors use all of the best practices are 94% loyal, while clients with just one best practice are 20 percentage points less loyal.
One best practice is making sure there is a financial plan for every client. That means boosting the use the company's Envision software. The advisor feeds the program every detail of a client's financial life and goals: how much the client wants to withdraw each year in retirement, what age they want to retire, and so on. Then Envision performs 1,000 simulations to see what percentage of the time those goals will be met. If the number is too low, the advisor knows it's time to change something. Currently, 81% of the firm's clients have an Envision plan. Kowach wants that figure to climb this year.
Another best practice is the use of a Client Service Matrix, which helps advisors develop a plan to bolster their relationship with clients. It asks how many times will the advisor communicate with clients each year and howin person, by phone? But perhaps the most important piece is the advisor telling the client what their service commitment is. Kowach stresses that this is not a rote exercise. "It's all about the individual relationship," he says, "showing our clients how important they are to us and committed their financial advisor is to them." About half of Wells' advisors have used the Matrix thus far; the goal is for all of them to be using it eventually. "We need to continue to work on earning trust from clients. Clients need to know their advisors and firms care about them," Kowach says.
6. Dwight Mathis
Head of new advisor strategy at Bank of America Merrill Lynch
Dwight Mathis has spent the last two years overseeing the overhaul of the machine that trains the next generation of Merrill Lynch advisors, and he's not finished yet. "Someone asked if we're done with the overhaul of the Practice Management Development (PMD) program, and that's not our philosophy," he said. "We have a philosophy of continuous improvement, constantly measuring results of all our training and all of our programs, looking for ways to enhance it."
Several additions to the program will roll off the line this year, including PMD Impact, which requires the advisors to make a contribution to their local communities. "There's a strong correlation between successful advisors and advisors making contributions in their community - not just financial," said Mathis. If the trainees don't yet have a cause they are passionate about, their mentors or other senior colleagues will help them identify it. Merrill Lynch will make a contribution to the charity based on the number of hours the trainees volunteer. "The idea is to get them out in the community, to get them to become a leader in the community, and we're happy to put some investment into that," he says.
Mathis is quick to point out that training is not new for Merrill - the firm has been training advisors since 1947. But the 4,5000 high-achieving newbies who survived a seven-step screening process to join the program now are getting training that is more prescriptive than in the past. They are expected to complete modules covering everything from risk management to leadership. There is still sales training, but following the industry trend, there is now a firm emphasis on financial planning. New advisors learn "consultative sales skills," and less about the traditional transactional model. There is also formal training for the Certified Financial Planner exam.
In the second year of the program the PMDers are versed in the "optimal practice model" which stresses the notion of building teams comprised of six functional roles: financial planning, investment, service, business development, finance (lending) and practice management. The third year is all about personal and professional development. Modules with names like executive wellness and mental alignment sit alongside more traditional fare like business planning and strategy. There's also a formal mentoring program in place that pays senior advisors.
Although the program is administered all over the country, rather than a central training facility, as in the old days, Mathis is adamant that it be consistent. "A big part of 2013 is to make sure we're delivering on everything we've built and doing that the right way," Mathis says.
7. Michael J. Schroeder
President of Baird Private Wealth Management
Mike Schroeder is working to solve a big problem for the wealth management industry: the workforce is aging and lacks diversity. "You walk around college campuses today, there are people from all corners of the world, all different ethnicities, genders. Those are the future investors, yet the work force on Wall Street doesn't match that at all," he says.
Schroeder's solution: Work with colleges to bring the diversity of campuses into the advisor work force. In a program so new it does yet have a name, Schroeder is starting to build partnerships with major universities. The company will work with the business schools and finance departments to advance curriculums in wealth management, which has received less attention than finance and investment banking. Baird will offer some large scholarships to students, as well as hire interns from the universities. "A lot of these major universities have students with a sincere interest in pursuing a career in wealth management, and oftentimes don't know how to get their foot in the door. We're trying to make it easier," he says
As for today's candidates, Baird has two programs. To attract young college grads with about five years of sales experience in other industries who want to pursue a career as a financial advisor, there is the Professional Development Program. Most of its grads go on to join a Baird team or form a mentor relationship with a senior advisor or branch manager. The program averages about 20 to 25 people a year; Schroeder's aiming for 35 to 40 in 2013.
For those straight out of college or graduate school, there is the Foundation Program. It exposes the grads to the core elements of the wealth management business by putting them through a rotation in each of the firm's major divisions: operations, products and services, research and sales management. At the end, they know which part of wealth management they like best.
And Baird also recruits veteran advisors from competitorsroughly one-third of its 700-person force arriving in the last five years. They tend to be high-producers as well, sporting an average production of more than $850,000.
For those who join, there are rewards. Schroeder says that the firm is hoping to be on the Fortune 100 best places to work list for the tenth year in a row.
8. Darryl Traweek
West/South Divisional Director at RBC
Go west, young financial advisor. How far? Southern California. It's a place Darryl Traweek, one of RBC's three regional directors, is keeping his eye on because he's identified it as an attractive market for jet setting Latin American clients. To serve them, he's looking for globetrotting advisors who are equally sophisticated. "Growing and training high quality advisors is a critical initiative," he said. "We have some good domestic individuals, but we're also looking to add international advisors." No wonder. The international business is a good one: the average revenue per advisor who works with US-based investors is $600,000 a year, while the advisors working with overseas investors pull in upwards of $1 million. The company has just hired a team from Morgan Stanley, with roughly $3.5 million in production, which will seed the new San Diego office.
For the last few years, the company has been focusing on large markets where there is a strong Latino presence, including New York City and Miami. There, RBC's advisors work with high net worth clients from Puetro Rico, Peru, Uruguay, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico. Now, Traweek is looking to the western horizon, in cities like Houston, the fourth largest market in the US, where the 42% of the population is Hispanic. There are four offices in Houston now that serve domestic clients, with plans for a new one to serve those from overseas.
Traweek has reached out to the Latino community elsewhere in the Lone Star state, joining the board of the Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. In partnership with the university, RBC has formed a lecture series called "Faces of the Americas." The series serves a double purpose, giving both potential clients and recruits a view of RBC's international expertise. Plus, lining up speakers, often from the C-suite across industries, provides an entrÃ©e to female business executives, another coveted audience. "It really helps support our initiative in supporting female executives in business and the investing world," he said. Raising the proportion of women in his advisor ranks up from 12% is another of his major goals over the next few years.
Topics in the lecture series have included the impact of US energy policy changes on Latin America. "We find that by taking education and marrying it with the wealth management business, a lot of individuals are bringing their portfolio to RBC, or considering it for their own careers," he said. "We show them we understand Latin American markets through our association with different corporate leaders that deal in the international arena."
9. Elisse Walter
The new SEC chair
Elisse Walter, the new Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman, has inherited a full plate from her predecessor and good friend Mary Schapiro. Her immediate priorities are finishing the jobs mandated by Congress, including completing drafting dozens of new rules required by 2010's Dodd-Frank law, which seeks to tighten Wall Street regulation. The other task set by Capital Hill is drafting rules for the Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act. Made law in April, it aims to make it easier for smaller companies to raise money. One proposed method is by lifting a ban on general solicitationadvertising to the publicthat has been around since 1933. The result would mean companies, as well as hedge funds and venture capital funds, could solicit money from investors publicly, rather than through private networks.
And there are other financial reform issues to address, in addition to running an agency that has taken harsh criticism for having fallen down on the job of policing Wall Street prior to the financial crisis of 2008. The agency was also called to the carpet for having been slow to ferret out many financial crimes, including the massive Ponzi scheme run by Bernard Madoff.
Published reports have quoted insiders saying Walter has a very similar mindset to Schapiro, but with more willingness to get tough with Wall Street in terms of both stricter regulations and penalties for infractions. The two have served together for many years, at the SEC, then NASD and its successor organization, FINRA, as well as the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.
Walter, who had already been confirmed by the Senate as a commissioner, did not need to be re-confirmed to take over from Schapiro on December 14. She has until Dec. 31 2013, when her term ends, to get the rule-making jobs done. But how long she will actually serve remains a mystery. She may stay longer, if the Obama administration decides to re-nominate her at the end of her term. However, published reports have said that the White House is interviewing candidates to take over when Walter steps down. Adding to the difficulty of her political task, Washington watchers say that with the SEC board being evenly split between two Democrats and two Republicans, gridlock is likely.
10. Sen. Elizabeth Warren
The rematch is on. All eyes in the financial world will be on the Senate Banking Committee to see if it will welcome the newly elected junior Senator from Massachusetts, Elizabeth Warren, to its ranks.
For Warren, a Democrat, Harvard law professor and expert in both banks and bankruptcy, November's triumph is a sweet vindication. Last year, the outspoken critic of the financial services industry saw her nomination to be the first director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureauan agency she designedscuppered by Republicans. If she is assigned to the Senate Banking Committee, she will bring to the panel a strong voice for tighter regulation of financial services. She has advocated a new, modern version of the Glass-Steagall Act, which separated commercial banking from investment banking and brokerage in the wake of the 1929 stock market crash.
"Wall Street's risky bets nearly brought the economy to its knees in 2008, but instead of taking responsibility, Wall Street lobbied to water down the Dodd-Frank financial reforms of 2010 and fought to weaken the reforms Congress passed," she said in an August statement. "By making banks smaller, a new Glass-Steagall could also help put an end to banks that are 'too big to fail' and reduce the risk of more taxpayer bailouts," she added.
She has also called for sharpening the Volcker Rule, in a bid to stop big banks from trading for profit. She has maintained that they should not be allowed to continue proprietary trading with the backing of the federal government's low Fed funds rate and deposit insurance. "Banking should be boring," was a frequent refrain during her campaign against Republican Scott Brown. She declared herself as the "cop on the beat" keeping tabs on big banks. Her mission: "To make sure no one steals your purse on Main Street and no one steals your pension on Wall Street."
While the industry's lobbyists have aligned against the self-styled cop joining the panel, it is undeniable that she brings experience along with her skepticism. From 2008 to 2010 she chaired the Congressional Oversight Panel in charge of the bank bailouts during the financial crisis.
Earlier this year, Warren called for J.P. Morgan chief Jamie Dimon to step down from his post at the New York Federal Reserve board after his firm lost $2 billion on a derivatives trade. The move would "send a signal to the American people that Wall Street bankers get it and to show that they understand the need for responsibility and accountability," Warren said.